Ben Howard – Every Kingdom (Island Records)

It’s not often that a “singer-songwriter” with genuine talent manages to stand out from the ocean of “men-with-guitars” playing average songs about breakups and how difficult life is being introspective and bourgeois. But don’t worry, Ben Howard has much more to offer than this.
Every Kingdom drifts effortlessly between captivating, atmospheric lows and visceral, intense crescendos. To the uncommitted listener, it has the potential to stray into the realm of forgettable new-folk. However after a few listens you really gain an appreciation of his writing skill and musical dexterity as more and more melodic layers reveal themselves.

Having said this, fans of his live shows (which incidentally are incredible) will be underwhelmed by the slick yet empty production. The studio album fails to portray the most impressive emotional or engaging aspects of his stage performances. Producer Chris Bond has mastered a technically very respectable and pleasant album but it somehow seems to wash out some of the rawness and intimacy that his dedicated fan-base love so much.

To summarise, this is one surf-folk album that is pleasant enough to dip your toes into but ultimately lacks the depth required for a fully immersive listen. If you want some easy listening to bring back fond summer memories then buy this album, if you want goosebumps and a shiver down your spine then see Ben Howard live.

Release date: Out now

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